Planetfall: Layoffs At Everquest/H1Z1/Planetside Dev

A name change to the awkward-sounding’Daybreak Game Company’ isn’t the only consequence Sony’s recent shock sale of its MMOy division SOE to management firm Columbus Nova. Barely more than a week after the acquisition, Daybreak is making lay-offs, reportedly including the long-time lead and public face of the Everquest games. “The operation of current games” won’t be affected apparently, so while this is sad news at least we needn’t panic that someone’s going to take Planetside 2 or H1Z1 away from us.

Kotaku carried the news last night, initially from anonymous insider sources, but not much later Daybreak made an official announcement:

“As part of a strategic decision to rationalize the business, Daybreak Game Company announced today that it will eliminate positions in both its San Diego and Austin studios. This alignment of resources better positions the newly independent studio for future growth opportunities and developments, including delivering on its legacy of making top online games and establishing a solid foundation for future multi-platform success. These reductions will not affect the operation of current games and the company will continue on its mission to partner with its player community to drive the future and push the boundaries of online gaming.”

RATIONALIZE
BUSINESS
ELIMINATE
ALIGNMENT
GROWTH
DELIVERING
FOUNDATION
OPERATION
DRIVE
BOUNDARIES

What a funny way to say “look, this really sucks, and we’re really sorry that we’ve made life so difficult for a bunch of people who wound up working for a completely different company through no fault of their own, but we had to do it because by God all this is terrifyingly expensive. We’ll do all we can to make it right, and we’ll take care of our fans too.”

Business is business, and business is heartless. This stuff happens all the time, and it is sad. Realistically it’s not going to affect the Daybreak games we play, at least not for a while, but it’s a shame that what could have been an independence song so quickly became pruning. Especially given the newly-remonikered Daybreak had declared at the time of the acquisition that they’d have “we expect to have even more resources available to us.” Acquisitions so rarely seem to go that way.

Details on exactly who’s gone and from where are still unclear, though among their number are two of SOE’s most public faces, veteran Everquest producer & franchise lead David Georgeson and long-time community relations boss Linda Carlson.

Best of luck to all affected.

57 Comments

Top comments

  1. Noviere says:

    According to a thread on the EQ Next subreddit, here are "confirmed" layoffs:
    David "Smokejumper" Georgeson, Franchise lead
    Eric "Felgon" Smith, Landmark/EQNext producer
    Jeffrey Butler, EQN/Landmark creative director
    Steve "Moorgard" Danuser, EQNext lead content/story designer
    Mark Storer, EQNext programmer
    Aaron "Gnobrin" Bisnett, EQ2 artist
    Akil "Lyndro" Hooper, EQ2 Designer
    Racheal "Afista" McKenny, EQ2 community manager

    Based on the first few, EQ Next seems to be in trouble.
  1. Noviere says:

    According to a thread on the EQ Next subreddit, here are “confirmed” layoffs:
    David “Smokejumper” Georgeson, Franchise lead
    Eric “Felgon” Smith, Landmark/EQNext producer
    Jeffrey Butler, EQN/Landmark creative director
    Steve “Moorgard” Danuser, EQNext lead content/story designer
    Mark Storer, EQNext programmer
    Aaron “Gnobrin” Bisnett, EQ2 artist
    Akil “Lyndro” Hooper, EQ2 Designer
    Racheal “Afista” McKenny, EQ2 community manager

    Based on the first few, EQ Next seems to be in trouble.

    • Guvornator says:

      Here’s the rest

      Planetside 2 Devs:

      David Carey: Producer
      Taylor Dowell: PS2 Game Designer
      Katharine Anderson: PS2 Build Master/Associate Programmer
      Xander Clauss: PS2 Level Designer
      Kevin Moyer: Vehicle Design & Balance
      Sarah Vu: QA rep.

      H1Z1 Devs:

      Noah Watkins: UI Artist
      Kelduum Revaan: Technical Designer

      Obviously it’s a sad day. I’d like to wish them all well, especially David Carey, who’s been great with the Planetside 2 community.

      • Guvornator says:

        This reddit thread has the confirmed details link to reddit.com

      • Kelduum Revaan says:

        Actually, that’s not my real name, but most people still know me as Kelduum. *shrug*

        And yes, it sucks, but it was certainly fun while it lasted. H1Z1 probably won’t be noticeably affected for a while, at least.

        Anyone need a Technical Designer in the UK? (@Kelduum)

      • starclaws says:

        Thank goodness… Hopefully they get people in who will actually fix things for Planetside 2. Basics like just floating trees and rocks are still year old bugs unchanged after reports.

    • Screwie says:

      The loss of David Georgeson alone is quite troubling. He’s been the public face of EQ for years.

      • DiTH says:

        I agree. I was shocked to see his name there.
        As an EQ fan i dont know how this will affect the whole project but i guess they wanted to change the faces of the company so they dont associate them with Sony anymore?

        • Philomelle says:

          That would make sense if they only fired community managers and the like, but they also fired all the producers and a huge number of high-level content creators. So this likely has less to do with faces and more to do with them not liking the direction those games are going in.

          I do worry that they’re going to enforce a more brutal “F2P’ system. One thing I liked about SOE’s F2P systems is that they’re very fair, in a sense that they mostly lock away additional content instead of features. Every time I did spend money on their games, I actually felt I got something substantial in return.

          • Shuck says:

            “So this likely has less to do with faces and more to do with them not liking the direction those games are going in.”

            It probably has more to do with the fact that the leads were the highest paid employees, and getting rid of them saves the company the most money. They didn’t get bought up by a game development company who understands anything about the “direction” the game development is going. They got bought up by investors who are looking to cut costs in the short term. Of course, unless there was redundancy in all those positions, it crippled their ability to continue developing those games in the long term.

      • Kelvar says:

        Is it though? I’m sure this will sound harsh or whatever, but consider this:

        EQNext has been “Scrapped” and re-imagined what… two or three times now? The game was first mentioned four or fives years ago now.

        For whatever reason, the people driving the game couldn’t settle on a vision or couldn’t realize it. Anyone who thinks companies just pick the highest paid employee and axe them doesn’t have a lick of business sense. I’m sure Smed or other upper management provided recommendations on who should go and who should stay – the company isn’t going to hamstring themselves by arbitrary laying off “whoever”.

        Was it the right choice? Who knows, only time will tell, but there’s an argument to be made that this might be positive for EQNext. It never felt like it was being showcased to the forefront in the same manner as other games with similar industry backings/budgets and there was probably a reason for this.

        Maybe others who CAN make the vision a reality will step in and do so.

        • awev says:

          Wile EQNext might seem like a sink hole, I know of one major bank purchasing another, and then making the work environment a hostile area so the senior employees want to quit. My sister worked for a major national bank, and when purchased the purchasing company hired someone to go around a yell at the employees that had more than five years of service with the purchased company. This was with the customer service help desk (telephone based help). It was cheaper to hire a punk than to offer severance pay, or fire them (due to unemployment insurance costs, and the legal aspects of it). When you call a major, nation-wide bank, for help, say changing your profile or updating your phone number, do not be surprised if it sounds like a sales pitch, as customer support is expected to have a 25% sales rate of a new, or upgraded (read more expensive), service. Of course their is no laws that says it can not be an outright hostile work environment, just so long it is does not target you based on race, sex, age, or religion. So, it is legally possible to make a place so bad that you have employees wanting to quit, to help the company save money.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      Sad stuff. Wonder if Maggie Krohn is ok.

    • stoopiduk says:

      Higby has taken the opportunity to jump ship too.

      Hope everyone finds their way, I put a lot of hours into PS2 and while it was never perfect, it was a bloody good game. Made a lot of friends in the RPS outfit thanks to it, and had a couple of great weekends out with the giraffes.

  2. wyrm4701 says:

    “Gentlemen, we need to rationalize the business. Who wants to make more money?”

    – hands go up around the room –

    “Right then, that’s sorted. Who’s going to be the bearer of bad news?”

  3. Sigvatr says:

    PlanetSide 2 set the official Guinness World Record for most players in an FPS battle only a matter of days ago. What a way to finish! (closes 29 tabs)

  4. rustybroomhandle says:

    That announcement might have been written by a random word generator. :/

    • P.Funk says:

      Hardly a random word generator, rather more like a highly refined smarm concoctor, a Glibulator if you will.

    • rusty5pork says:

      Allow me to translate from Corporatese: “We want this to sound nice, but we don’t really want to tell you anything. Also, we just fired a bunch of people.”

  5. LionsPhil says:

    Gotta love they way they can spin shrinking as a “growth opportunity”.

    • Artist says:

      You can be absolutly sure that the shrink will grow the income for the shareholders, hehe! Questionable is only if this is really a good long-term solution or a damaging, rather short-term cash-flow rush.

    • MrUnimport says:

      I’ve heard some assert that they had to arrest SOE’s money-bleeding before doing anything else. I would have expected them to invest more in getting EQN out the door and producing money, but it seems like they haven’t deemed it sufficiently developed to do even that.

  6. SomeDuder says:

    Dont mind them closing down Everquest, which never had a chance anyway with all the other F2P MMORPGs, but if they are canning Planetside, which is nowhere near done but still a relatively unique thing, being a MMOFPS, then what the hell are they planning on “growing the business” with? You can’t make money if you’ve got nothing to sell.

    H1Z1 I don’t care about, being yet another zombie-survival/PvP-sandbox. DayZ and 7 Days to die have got that shit covered.

    • Guvornator says:

      They won’t be canning it – remember there’s still the PS4 version to come out. But I doubt it’ll be great news in the long run.

    • jhk655 says:

      Except day Z’s engine is a clunky POS and 7 days to die is more like minecraft with zombies. they definitely do not have an entire genre covered. what a ridiculous thing to say. That’s like saying: “we don’t need any more military FPS games, COD and battlefield got that covered” lol

      • iainl says:

        Though of course, if you want to be all picky about it, Minecraft is already Minecraft with zombies.

      • Artist says:

        But we really dont need any more military shooters….. =/

      • Wartai says:

        Obviously you havent played 7 Days to Die, it doesnt resemble Minecraft with Zombies, it used to when it was first released, alot has changed

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      If you hadn’t noticed, everyone and their monkey is making some form of survival game. It’s no coincidence that game received the fewest layoffs by a long way. I’d imagine they have put H1Z1 as their primary focus. Money people are seeing it as the trending thing at the moment and want a slice of the pie.

      Usually it’s because they know sod all about gaming habits. Making something in a popular genre doesn’t = money, as we’ve seen with WoW clones over the years, MOBAs are the current set of victims, survival games will be the next to fade into obscurity in droves. Once people get invested into a game, they DO NOT switch to something similar, they certainly don’t play multiple games in the same genre at the same time.

      “Make the thing that is currently popular” is business 101, however it has failed time and time again in gaming, millions of dollars have been wasted trying to latch on to the success of something else. People in suits seem to fail to realise this repeatedly.

      • fish99 says:

        To be fair H1Z1 has been selling consistently well.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          God knows what people see in that genre but H1Z1 does seem like the best of an unfinished bunch at the moment.

          • MrUnimport says:

            To me it seems like the epitome of a short-term cash grab. Just because it successfully grabbed them a whole lot of cash doesn’t make it sustainable in the long term. But hey, from what I’ve heard, they were in dire need of a capital injection, so whatever.

    • Neiloch says:

      The everquest games made them the most money, actually. More than PS2.

  7. Lachlan1 says:

    Just a quick shout out to the people on the ps2 forum who told me the game would be better off without me. I can’t have been the only one who left and stopped paying for ps2. But seriously, when will someone realise smedley needs to go?

  8. drinniol says:

    Wow. Maybe HR at Sony had a grudge, because a week is no time at all to judge performance or the impact a person has.

    • Shuck says:

      The lay-offs clearly had nothing to do with the employees’ performance or importance to the project – it’s just about reducing costs by slashing positions. The people let go were chosen based on having higher salaries and/or appeared to be redundant (to people who don’t know anything about game development).

  9. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    I bet a box of internets and some cookies that:
    a) The people laid off will be replaced by F2P/mobile cylons from the venture capitalist off-world colonies.
    and/or:
    b) They are dismantling most of the studio assets to put them on the corporate ebay.

  10. Lobotomist says:

    People are so naive, to think there is still chance for EQ. (or even other games)

    You can not simply fire the whole expert team from the game.

    Just look at the list. They simply fired every essential person that worked on the project.

    Its not like ColumbusNova are Blizzard, and they know the knowledge of making succesful games and have ready replacements… No, this is just bunch of bankers and mafia guys buying and selling various investments.

    Even if they wanted to continue developing EQ:N they could not do it anymore. It would take them year to replace top experts. And who will teach the new people the technology ?

    Trust me, I work in high tech and gaming industry. Its impossible at this point.

    What happened is that they fired top earners. To prevent leaking funds while they are trying to figure how to butcher and sell what can be sold , and turn the profit. Its well known investment strategy to buy for cheap bankrupting buisnesses and than re-sell them in higher priced pieces.

    RIP EQ:N

    RIP last MMO that had potential to change something in this dark ages of MMO.

    • Shuck says:

      Yeah, I’ve never seen it turn out well when multiple leads get laid off. I’ve worked for game companies where they’ve done that, and the company ended up being shut down shortly thereafter. EQN – at least – is dead, and the other projects’ futures depends on whether they have multiple producers. If they fired all the producers, that definitely doesn’t bode well. I suspect you’re right in that they’re trying to cannibalize and sell off the pieces of the company (I’m not sure they’re aware that the pieces don’t tend to be worth much in the game industry), starting with getting rid of the most expensive employees (that’s the pattern I’ve seen), and this is the end of these games and development studio.

    • LionsPhil says:

      RIP last MMO that had potential to change something in this dark ages of MMO.

      Yeah. :(

  11. Voqar says:

    Does anybody really care about EQN anyways? Another mediocre F2P game from SOE or whatever they want to be called isn’t worth getting excited about, especially when it’s not much of an MMORPG and will be yet another dumbed down soloist game, dumbed down even further if aimed at consoles and other lesser platforms.

    • Lobotomist says:

      Sadly EQN was most innovative title in MMO development since days before WOW. If it came out as promised it would swing MMOs from trainwreck path they are moving for many years now.

      Death of EQN might aswell be death of AAA MMO developement in west

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      I’m seeing lots of “concrete” opinions with very little proof tbh. We’ve seen bugger all of EQ Next at this point.

  12. fish99 says:

    It’s possible Daybreak no longer have the rights to use the EQ name anymore, and without the name the project would be a (even bigger) gamble.

    • Kelduum Revaan says:

      Daybreak is literally just SOE with the name changed (and a few less staff now), and they still have all the EQ/Planetside/etc IP they had before.

      • fish99 says:

        There’s more consequences to the change in ownership than just the name, they no longer have Sony’s financial clout and ability to absorb losses behind them. A few poorly received games and they’ll go bust like everyone else now. They probably won’t have the creative freedom they had either.

        Anyway, if you know for a fact they were able to take the IPs with them that’s good news for them.

        • awev says:

          You lure top/key employees away from a company for their knowledge and/or name recognition. You purchase a company for it’s assets, in this case the games and intellectual property (IP), and let the top management go, keeping one key person as an adviser (overlap/redundancy is to be minimized) or second in command (the owner or a top executive officer).

      • rexx.sabotage says:

        Kelduum Revaan, I know you were over at H1Z1 but, I have been following Landmark since March last year until the petty, small mindedness of the player community’s vocal minority quickly drove me away. In general, how much does the negative and unproductive behavior of these small but loud groups of people contribute to the inevitable success or failure of a game’s development?

        • zentropy says:

          I’m actually quite curious about this myself. Not for any of these particular games, but it would be interesting to hear how much affect that part of the “community” has on games in open development, early access, et.c.

  13. aircool says:

    Shit… I mean, Smokejumper is EQ.

    • obstruction says:

      it’s not Daybreak or even EQ that i’m going to follow. it’s Dave Georgeson. where he goes next in gaming is where i go.

  14. ZephaniahGrey says:

    Pretty sure at this point that Everquest Next and Landmark are lost causes. Columbus Nova (rumored to be the US embodiment of a Russian company) know nothing of making games and don’t want to.

    You can’t produce a creative endeavor without your creative team or producer.

    This isn’t a pruning, it’s a liquidation.

    No attempt has been made to put on a good PR campaign here because they have no interest in one.

    The don’t care if they lose customers, because they have no intent to keep the services running.

    The only part I even kind of believe is their intent to begin developing mobile games. They’re a nice quick cash grab. PC is too messy for people who want money NOW.

    • MrUnimport says:

      Another angle: perhaps EQN was so poorly managed that the new management decided it was best to nuke the project just to staunch the bleeding.

      • Astroman says:

        Landmark has done a good job with regular updates though. The voxel crafting all works and they recently added PvP duels, PvE monsters and natural cave systems.

  15. sREa says:

    I have to say this. In my opinion -and I’ve had a lot of experience over the years with quite a few MMO and online gaming service providers- SOE was one of the best, if not, THE best online entertainment company out there. WHY would they sell it?

    How will this effect the excellent service/tech-support they provided? They were the leaders in this aspect. The games provided were, still is I suppose, top-notch. Yet I’m worried.

    Hopefully nothing is going to change too much.

  16. TheDrowning321 says:

    “In other news many developers for DGC have been found mysteriously murdered, these events coincide with DGC revealing that planet-side 2 will get changed from large maps with thousands of people to small maps and a maximum of 20 players per map. Also DLC for DGC’s games is planned as well as DRM.